Montreal

Montreal borough councillor apologizes to anyone offended by headscarf comments

In the face of intense public criticism, Lynne Shand is attempting to clarify derisive comments she made about a doctor in a headscarf and the "Islamification of our country."

'I firmly believe in a secular society,' Lynne Shand said Monday

Anjou borough councillor Lynne Shand posted comments to her personal Facebook page about having been treated by an ophthalmologist wearing a Hijab. (CBC)

A councillor for the borough of Anjou, in Montreal's east end, is attempting to clarify derisive comments she made about a doctor who wears a headscarf and the "Islamification of our country."

In the face of intense public criticism, Lynne Shand issued a statement Monday apologizing to anyone — especially Muslims — who may have taken offence from her earlier comments on Facebook.

"What I really wanted to write is that I firmly believe in a secular society where all religions and religious symbols should have no influence on public and governmental institutions," she said.

"My religion, like the Muslim religion, does not tolerate racism and is based on the equality of peoples."

She said she is "not a member of any extremist group" and she is also "against all forms of religions or fundamentalist groups that propagate hatred, violence or racism."

In her Facebook post on the weekend, Shand took issue with the fact that she was treated by a doctor wearing a hijab.

"Yesterday I had an emergency ophthalmology exam, and who was the ophthalmologist? A woman in a veil... Grrrrrr…"  she wrote.

"If it hadn't been an emergency I would have refused to be treated by her. I'm angry because it's really the Islamification of our country."

Painful timing after N.Z. mosque shootings, say Montreal Muslims 

At a mosque in Anjou, people said that the timing of the comments is especially insensitive, coming as they do just over a week after the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand.

"This is what hurts us a lot," Nordine Hmida said.

Some said Shand's comments made them feel unsafe.

"I feel afraid for not just myself, but even for my family, for my children," Soufiane Daha said.

Politicians condemn comments

Despite the furore, Anjou Mayor Luis Miranda said it's not up to him but to voters to decide if they want Shand to stay on in her role.

"I'm not going to kick her out. Constituents in three years will decide what they're going to do with her," Miranda said.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante is among those who condemned Shand's initial remarks.

"The comments [from] the Anjou councillor are absolutely inappropriate and out of line for an elected official," Plante tweeted on Sunday.

On Monday, Quebec Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault called them "inappropriate."

"People can wear those signs if they want to," she said.

The Coalition Avenir Québec government is expected to table a bill this week that would ban public workers in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols. The bill won't apply to doctors.

Guilbault said the legislation will bring "clarification" to the debate around religious symbols and will "help to ease people's minds."

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